A Collection

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Some people collect stamps, some  postcards, others  recipes. As fond as I am of language, it should come as no surprise that I am a collector of words. Sometimes, when I’m stressed I just start making lists of my favorite words, writing out all the ones I particularly like, because of their meaning; the way they sound; or how they’re spelled (for instance perspicacious, curmudgeonly, and effervescent make the list). While I’ve been in Ireland I’ve been “collecting” some of the words or phrases that I’ve heard here that I liked or found unusual or strange. So, as I’m getting ready to leave tomorrow I give you my collection from the past four weeks (plus my running commentary because I always have something to say about anything).


This is one of my new favorite words, period. It was used by  a cute little tour guide in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  While I have since learned that it can mean slightly intoxicated, when I first heard it she was using it to mean:

Awkward, wrong, lopsided, ruffled or strangely different.

Only it’s a way cooler sounding word than any of those used above.


When we were all together and someone would address us as a group they would refer to us as “lads.” This occurred despite the fact that we were all girls.

Grand, Super, Lovely, Cheers

This isn’t one phrase I just wanted to group them together  because I think they’re all superior to the synonyms I typically use. I  find grand, super, and lovely to be way more interesting adjectives than “great” and cheers to be a better way to say “goodbye.”

As the fella’ says…

We had a bus driver in Dublin who kept saying this, we weren’t even on his bus for very long and he said it three or four times. I’m still wondering who this fellow is and why he had so much to say…


I prefer this to counter-clockwise, it makes it seem evil or negative. Like clockwise is the lovable hero and anti-clockwise is the villain trying to force people to go the other direction!

What’s the craic, lads?

Craic generally means fun or even news or entertainment.  I think I’d like to replace my use of “what’s up” or “how’s it going” with this (of course if I have to explain what I’m asking this will considerably lengthen many conversations intended to be brief).

I will ya

I never heard this used, but someone told me that if you hear an Irish person say this they are actually being sarcastic. It’s sort of the equivalent of  “yeah right.” I am all about snarky so I really wanted to hear someone use this.

You’re a star

One of my friends was told this after doing a really simple favor for someone. I just like how easy it was to get a rather glowing compliment.

Thanks a million

Another example of especially effusive responses to everyday occurrences, being a fan of hyperbole I appreciate these.

Tomorrow I’m flying out, and while I’m glad to go home I’m sorry to leave. Thanks a million,  Ireland. It’s been grand.  I’ll be back.


Dublin – Part 2

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Thursday morning we woke up early again (this was a theme of the Dublin trip I didn’t love so much) so that we could go to the Book of Kells, the exhibit is at Trinity College so we didn’t have very far to go.

IMG_1235The Book of Kells is a manuscript dated around 800 AD that contains the four Gospels written in Latin, it’s famous for the beautiful illustrations. Before we got to the book, we walked through an exhibition that talked about ancient bookmaking, I loved it. Everything was so carefully done: the binding, the handwriting, and the illustrating. It was such an art form. I loved walking through and reading all about it,  when I came to the actual book  I was suitably impressed. It’s  in such amazing condition; the drawings are still so incredibly clear and vibrant.

After the Book of Kells is the Old Library, I was unprepared for the level of awesomeness that resided there.

IMG_1248 IMG_1322There were so many books in this one area, the look of awe on my face is genuine.

I just feel like when that many books are in one place they make a room larger than it is; all those far away lands and the potential for adventure. The added element of the preservation of particularly old books makes it all the more impressive to me. I would have been happy to live in the Old Library for awhile.

Afterwards I went with a group to the Kilmainham Gaol. The Gaol has historical significance, partly because it’s really old (so if the choir members at Christ Church really had been 300 years old they too would’ve been historically significant by this measure). It’s also the place where some of the members of the 1916 Easter Uprising were executed. It was eerie to stand in the place where the firing squad had killed those men.

IMG_1310 IMG_1307What’s interesting is that when the uprising first occurred the public opinion was against it, but when the men were killed and the people started reading about the execution in the paper, public opinion was swayed.  If the government had just given the men a regular trial and left them in prison for life, the public would likely have continued  viewing the rioters as crazy troublemakers.

One of the men, Joseph Plunkett, was engaged to be married to Grace.  The night before his execution he was allowed to marry her. They were given ten final minutes together before he was killed. Grace was later held in the same prison for a little while.

On a completely different and way less depressing note: over the course of two days I rode the bus several times, each with a different driver. One driver in particular was our absolute favorite because he sang. He was actually pretty good, he sang about the 1916 uprising, Molly Malone, and one song of inappropriate nursery rhymes. After our singing driver all others paled in comparison.

Also, while we were in a Starbucks someone asked me and one of the other gals where we were from and then told us we had really cool accents. We were kind of excited by this compliment.

Some Dublin pictures:


Dublin doors, they’re kind of  a big deal.


Molly Malone, “the tart with the cart”

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At Trinity.

Friday we left Dublin and took the bus to Enniskerry to go to Powerscourt Estate.

It was beautiful there.

We spent awhile walking around and taking pictures.





But the best part of Powerscourt didn’t involve the scenery. While we were walking around a group of three Irish women asked my friend and I to take a picture of them, then they took a picture of the two of us. We walked a little further and  they asked us to do it again, we did this several more times. At one point one of the ladies jokingly told us we should follow them around all day because they had champagne and strawberries. After that we went in separate directions for awhile.

Just as we were headed back to meet the other two in our group we heard someone yelling “Girls, girls!” from across a pond. It was our new picture friends. We ran over and chatted with them for about fifteen minutes and they were so much fun. One of the first things they said was: “We were saving you champagne but we figured you weren’t coming so we finished the bottle, but we do have some strawberries and chocolate covered nuts to give you.” The giving of fruit and chocolate meant that I was instantly endeared to them.

We then had one of my favorite confused about New Mexico conversations ever. It went something like this:

One of our new friends: So where are you girls from?

Me: I’m from New Mexico.

Them (staring blankly): Like connected to…old…Mexico?

Me: Well, um, it’s down in that general direction…

Them: that’s by Florida! Right?

Me: Oh no, it’s over by Arizona, Colorado, and…

Them: But that’s desert! You’re so fair!

Me: I wear a lot of sunscreen. *laughing not because it’s funny, just because it’s true*

Them: You look more Irish than anything else!

I feel like the fact that an Irish person told me this must mean that I basically am Irish.

Right before we left they offered to take our picture one more time, in front of a fountain. They thought the best way to do this was with us looking like we had been drinking the bottle of champagne (even though, you’ll remember, the champagne was in fact, gone when we got there).

IMG_1541All in all an amazing time in Dublin.

Dublin – Part 1


Wednesday morning I left University College Cork at 7 (too early, waaaaaaay too early) to trek to the bus stop so that we could catch the air coach to Dublin.

IMG_0960It was a lovely morning to be walking, although I feel it might have been a better morning to be sleeping.

We got to Dublin and checked in to Trinity College and got our tickets for the hop-on/hop-off tour bus.  Trinity was a big, beautiful campus and I wish I could’ve spent more time exploring it.


IMG_1222Staying at Trinity was awesome because we were right in the middle of everything, the only complaint we had was that there was no free wifi. This grievance proves that I am exceptionally spoiled.


The building I stayed in at Trinity.  I feel that the old stone  and climbing ivy was somewhat contradicted by the electronic key card lock.

Dublin was incredible, but I actually found it a little overwhelming. I don’t think I’m a big city girl (it also doesn’t help that I haven’t got a sense of direction to save my life so I’m terrified of getting lost). But it was absolutely amazing to visit and I’m so grateful I got to spend a few days there.

The first place we visited was Christ Church Cathedral


Apparently the choir was a part of the premiere of Handel’s Messiah (not the current members, that would make them all 300 years old [originally I left out this parenthetical statement, but I thought “my dad’s going to say something about how old everyone in that choir would be.” so I added it preemptively]) . Also, this cathedral had a crypt. The crypt  smelled funny and had a coffee shop in it, but other than that it was interesting. Also, they had on display a  cat and mouse who had gotten trapped in an organ pipe and become mummified, early predecessors to Tom and Jerry I suppose.

After that we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

IMG_1046This one had a tour, my favorite thing (there is absolutely zero sarcasm in this statement). Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) is buried there and so is his servant. The servant being buried there was a big deal that Swift had to work for. The plaque was supposed to refer to the man as Swift’s friend, but they just couldn’t do it so it says he was Swift’s servant.

IMG_1086This cathedral also had a statue of St. Patrick (kind of).

IMG_1109(This is a terrible picture, I was standing at a weird angle.)

The tour guide told us that this statue is actually made up of pieces from several different statues, and that it probably isn’t a very good likeness of St. Patrick at all because he wasn’t old enough to have such an impressive beard and he wouldn’t have been wearing these bishop robes. So it was more of a frankenstein statue of some random guy.

After these two churches our class was dismissed and so I went with some friends on a tour of the Guinness Storehouse.

IMG_1178My dad will be happy to know that I really, really, really don’t like Guinness, at all.  This was also the busiest most “touristy” thing I’ve done so far.

After Guinness we finished the day with dinner and I really, really, really did like that, the restaurant we ate at was totally darling. It was called Queen of Tarts. I wanted to live there but they kicked us out at 7 when they closed.

IMG_1210Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Dublin trip in which we  I am briefly stunned by a large quantity of books, go to jail, and make some new friends (those are three unrelated events, I don’t want to make this story sound more interesting than it actually is). 

Desperately seeking shepherd’s pie (Day trip #2 – Killarney)


Wednesday we had our second day trip, this one to Killarney.

I’ll be real honest, my only knowledge of Killarney came from this:

So really, I had no preconceived notions.

I am enthralled by the landscape here, so much green and so many flowers. It’s  vastly different from what I’m used to.  The first place we stopped overlooking Killarney was similarly beautiful.  It was so breathtaking, I was just in awe of a God who creates like that.


The pictures I took don’t even begin to convey how gorgeous it was at the spot overlooking the water.

From there we drove to Torc Waterfall, also beautiful.



And one with me in it to prove that I was there and not just pulling these off the internet.

After that we went to Muckross house and took a tour.


Muckross house was built in the 1800s by the Herbert family, it’s preserved and they run tours through most of the house. What’s special about this house in particular is that in 1861 Queen Victoria and her entourage came and spent two days here. You may think you have to spend a lot of time preparing for a visit from your in-laws but the Herberts received six years notice from the queen that she was coming, and they started getting ready right away. They bought new carpets, they had rooms redone for the queen, they even had a special sideboard built, which took three years. So, if I’m going to visit anyone I’m going to take my lesson from the queen and give them a minimum of four years notice so they can start sprucing things up (I’ll also leave them  with a rather large portrait of myself to remember me by).

After the house tour we went to get lunch.  One of my friends has been determined to eat shepherd’s pie somewhere.  I am always determined to eat and when what I’m eating involves mashed potatoes and meat I am doubly determined. So, we were quite pleased to discover that the cafe did in fact have shepherd’s pie.
IMG_0727Look, there it is “Traditional Shepherd’s Pie.”

The only problem with our meal choice was that it’s been unusually hot here, basically since I arrived. I thought this wouldn’t be an issue because it still isn’t getting anywhere close to the temperatures back home, but it’s humid. I don’t handle humid very well, I wilt.  Also there aren’t air conditioners anywhere (including on our bus which made for a sticky ride home). So we sat with our shepherd’s pie in the warm restaurant, and as tasty as it was I wished that I was eating a large block of ice instead. We remedied this by finding ice cream as soon as we had finished eating. (Everywhere sells ice cream here, and I have seen so many adults walking around with ice cream cones. This is truly my happy place.)

We spent the remainder of the day walking through the gardens and down to the water.  It was lovely everywhere we went and I was certainly not disappointed with Killarney (despite the lack of Bing Crosby present).

Now, some pictures!


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Day trip # 1- Blarney, Cobh, and Kinsale


Thursday, we went on our first of several day trips. This one took us to Blarney, Cobh, and Kinsale.
We had a bus driver named John who, I am convinced, knew everything (or at least everything related to the Irish countryside we were driving through).  My very favorite thing that occurred on the bus was when John imitated (mocked) Irish accents from other regions, and did a remarkable job.

We started the morning at Blarney Castle,

IMG_0268A nearly six hundred year old castle. Unlike Barryscourt, this castle is a ruin. We climbed the old stone steps, which were perilous and there were so, so many of them, to get to the main draw of the castle, the Blarney Stone. Visitors climb to the top of the castle, and upon kissing the Blarney Stone are supposed to be granted the gift of gab – eloquence.

Kissing the Blarney Stone requires laying on the ground, reaching up behind you to grab two bars and lowering yourself backwards until you can kiss the stone.  There are iron bars underneath you to keep you from plummeting to your death and  there is a person who’s sole job is to hold on to your waist and keep you from falling backwards. As I was kissing the Blarney Stone I was trying my hardest to avoid 1. Letting the germaphobe part of me think about how many other people  had done this and 2. Leaning so far back that I would be able to actually see the ground and recognize how high up I was.


Me kissing the Blarney Stone. I did not have to pay 10 euro for the picture taken by the Blarney Stone photographer because I had friends with me who could take this picture for free.

The rest of the castle and the grounds all around where beautiful.



IMG_0318 I don’t quite understand the appeal of these poison gardens. I’ve seen them a couple of different places, they feature plants such as rhubarb, marijuana, and tea (because it contains caffeine and lack thereof can result in withdrawal, which as everyone knows is right up their with the effects of some of the other plants, for instance…death).

From Blarney we went on to Cobh. Cobh was the final port of call for the Titanic before it set off. We didn’t spend much time there, but the harbor was lovely.

IMG_0350And we did visit a church

IMG_0357St. Colman’s Cathedral. Our driver pointed out that this was the last significant building that the people on the Titanic saw, which was kind of a haunting thought.

We also stopped to eat lunch, here:

IMG_0394We sat outside and enjoyed the breeze and the view of the water.

Next, we moved on to Kinsale. I loved Kinsale. Before we actually headed into the town we went to Charles Fort, which was once an English fort.



IMG_0437Then we spent a couple of hours in Kinsale walking through the town and going into the shops.


I actually took this and the next one on Saturday when a few of us went back to Kinsale. (We went back for an arts festival that wasn’t really starting yet, so we just spent the afternoon exploring Kinsale further.)

IMG_0515 IMG_0447I got this enormous piece of cake, and I am not ashamed to admit (well, I am a little bit ashamed) that I ate this entire thing, including the clotted cream.

It was a marvelous day, I saw a lot of a really beautiful place and I can’t wait for our next day trip on Wednesday!  (Also, buses put me to sleep like nothing else.)

“Have fun storming the castle!”

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IMG_0207Thursday, we went to Barryscourt Castle. This castle dates back to the 16th century when it was the seat of the Barry family. At one point David Barry wanted to join a rebellion on the side of the Irish and did not want to leave his castle available to the English so he lit it on fire. Later, when it became clear that the rebellion was not going to succeed, he switched sides, asking for forgiveness from the queen, and receiving it (way to be a fair-weather friend, David). He returned to his castle (now a burned out shell), married a woman with a large dowry, and rebuilt the castle.

This castle has now been reconstructed so that guests can go all through it and see the way it might have looked in the 16th century. As much as I enjoyed our tour and learned from our tour-guide, I must admit that a childhood dream of mine was dashed.

Once upon a time, there lived a young girl who always dreamed of being a princess, in a proper castle. 

My disappointment started at the front door. Rather than the large, majestic door (out of which spilled warm, golden light,) always open to a weary travel, that I had  pictured, we were told that the short, narrow wooden door had spikes coming out of it so that unwanted guests couldn’t get in. Because the spikes presented somewhat of a hazard toward tour guests, the door now just has little metal squares all across the front and leaves the rest up to the imagination. (You’ll really have to use your imagination because I thought I  had a picture of the door, but evidently I do not.)  If the intruder happened to make it past the door of death and get inside, they were likely to fall victim to the murder hole. That is actually the name, it was basically a grate in the ceiling and guards sat up there and dropped hot oil, tar, rocks and other “Welcome to our humble fortress” gifts on the people below.

My quest to learn about the lives of the rich and fabulous in the Elizabethan Era was already turning up some rather nasty bits of information and I was barely in the front door!  I learned shortly after that that things could only get worse as our next stop was the dungeon. I also don’t have a picture of the dungeon because it was really dark, instead I took a picture of this:
IMG_0168The hole that the prisoners were dropped in. It was also the only entrance to the dungeon, once you were dropped in there you were certainly not expected to come out. Gone were the ideas of the noble hero being thrown in the villain’s dungeon, only to valiantly escape later.

Next, we headed upstairs. (We had to go up a flight of stairs that had been added because the original stairs were super steep trick stairs, intended to keep invaders from making it  to the upper levels where the family lived.)

We went into the banquet hall where the family would eat and entertain and things looked a bit more promising for my idyllic castle life ideas. There were several long tables full of rustic dishes with one table at the head.


However, I didn’t have time to revel in daydreams of grand dinners full of beautiful nobles and fine food before I found out the truth. Food poisoning was a frequent occurrence and on top of that the head table ate off of pewter dishes, which caused lead poisoning. (They also shared one big receptacle of alcohol which is kind of icky.)

We didn’t go up to the bedrooms but it turned out that David Barry and his wife shared the one small room with their eight children. Ten people in one room; my final fairytale picture of a spacious room with a huge canopy bed and  a carved bureau was completely destroyed.

And so it came to pass that the young girl turned into an (almost) grown woman and learned that she far preferred to be an iPhone owning, backpack toting, book reading student, than a stair climbing, lead poisoned, castle living princess. 

In all seriousness, I very much enjoyed the tour of Barryscourt. I loved our tour guide and because  the first castle we saw was reconstructed it makes it easier when we go to ruins to imagine what they would’ve looked like. I also took many more castle-related pictures:

IMG_0172One of the doors. The castle was full of narrow doorways, low ceilings, and steep steps. It was a treacherous place for someone with my level of clumsy.

IMG_0179The original fireplace in the great hall.

IMG_0234Me in front of my very first castle, it was momentous.


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I made it to Ireland, one day later than I was supposed to, but I am here nonetheless!

Saturday night my first flight was delayed and so I missed my connection to Manchester, which meant that I had to stay overnight in Chicago. This was the first time I had flown in four years and the first time I had ever flown alone, and for several days I’d been stressing about my luggage and missing a connection.  Later after I was checked into a hotel room and was rebooked for a flight to Dublin on the following night (thanks to the help of my stupendous dad), I realized that what I had been worrying about had happened, and it really wasn’t a big deal. Everything was  correctable and worrying about it hadn’t gotten me anywhere. Then I patted myself on the back for learning before even leaving the U.S.

My flight to Dublin was uneventful (I should know, I was completely awake the entire time) and my luggage arrived when and where it was supposed to (which was something else I was somewhat concerned about, when my red suitcase came around on that belt I yanked it off like I was afraid if it kept going it would end up back in Chicago).


Today was my first real day here. We had two lectures this morning on early Irish history, both of which I really enjoyed because I am a super nerd and actually like school. I actually got excited to be back in school learning things that interested me.

I love the weather here, it’s so different from home. Cool, grey,  misty, and everything is very green. Today we went to St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral which was so awesome. There was a  wonderful stained glass window: it was a circle divided into sections with each section telling an element of the creation story in the most gorgeous way. It was impossible to properly photograph and so you’ll just have to see it with your mind.  Then we went to Elizabeth Fort, which really wasn’t a whole lot to see and is currently a functioning police station. It was interesting though, because throughout history the Irish people tore it down and the English made them build it again, and this happened multiple times.

Tomorrow we’re going to visit a castle, I’ve always felt myself to be a princess so it’s just possible I may be finding my rightful place…

A few pictures!
IMG_0116The cathedral

IMG_0115A charming Cork street. The roads are so narrow that the cars feel very close when you’re on the sidewalk.

IMG_0108This sign says “The most beautiful window in Cork…” and was on the ground at the fort in front of  a little barred up window looking out into someone’s yard with a prime view of their dumpster. We figured it dated back to when the fort was a woman’s prison. Even so we weren’t buying that this was the most beautiful window in all of Cork, especially considering the stained glass windows we had just looked at.